Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey has confirmed that the gardaí will adopt what he called a 'proportionate' approach to the enforcement of new motoring laws.

However, a garda spokesman said that gardaí will enforce any new legislation that comes into effect regarding provisional driving licence holders.

The spokesman said gardaí would not be using their discretion on a case-by-case basis in relation to provisional drivers and would enforce the law as normal when it comes into effect next week.

The laws will oblige holders of a second provisional driving licence to be accompanied by a fully licensed driver at all times.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's News at One, Mr Dempsey insisted new laws will come into force as announced from midnight on Monday.

However, he said following concerns raised about the short period in which some drivers will have to make new arrangements, the garda authorities will take a 'common sense' approach for 'two or three months'.

Road Safety Authority advertisements announcing the changes appeared in this morning's newspapers.

The changes to the driver licensing laws will affect drivers who have not yet obtained their full licence.

The changes will mean provisional licences will to be replaced by learner permits, to emphasise the fact that the holder is only learning to drive. Existing provisional licences will continue in force until their expiry date.

Driver must be accompanied

One of the major changes to the law will be that a holder of a second provisional licence will have to be accompanied at all times.

Also any learner driver will have to hold a licence or permit six months before taking a driving test.

Age Action says it believes the new regulations would add further to the isolation of some older people living in rural areas.

The organisation said they had been contacted by a number of older people living in rural areas and driving on provisional licences who have no idea how they are going to survive without being able to drive.

The new safety strategy also plans to introduce a reduced speed limit for learner drivers, although no limit is mentioned in the strategy.

Under the new road safety strategy, the RSA is to advise the Government on the recommended new blood alcohol level for drivers, but there no level given in the strategy.

It states that the Government will act immediately thereafter.

It is claimed the new five-year plan will save 400 lives.

Effect on people in rural areas

The IFA said the move would have a disproportionate effect on people in rural areas who do not have access to any other form of transport, and who have to use a car to travel to work.

A spokesman said safety on the roads is very important, but drivers need more notice to make alternative arrangements before the changes announced yesterday take effect.

The IFA spokesman said problem with the backlog in driver testing must be sorted out to give learner drivers an opportunity to sit a test and get a full licence.